Tomorrow When The War Began

Tomorrow When The War Began by John Marsden

Book: Tomorrow When The War Began by John Marsden Read Free Book Online
Authors: John Marsden
knew
that if there was trouble, if there was danger, it would be in
town.
    Robyn described, for the ones who hadn’t been
there, the layout of her house, and where it was in relation to
Wirrawee. We figured that it should be safe to go in on Coachman’s
Lane, which was just a dirt track at the back of a few ten acre
blocks, including Robyn’s. From the hill behind Robyn’s we could
get a glimpse of the town, which might tell us something.
    It was time to leave. Corrie was waiting for
me at the front door. I’d been using the bathroom. I’d forgotten
that the Mackenzies weren’t on town water, and a pressure pump
needs electricity to operate. So I’d had to go out to the bathtub
in the vegetable garden, fill a bucket with water, and come back in
to fill the cistern and flush the toilet. Corrie was getting
impatient but I held her up a few moments longer. I was coming down
the passageway, past their telephone, when I noticed a message on
their fax. ‘Corrie,’ I called out, ‘do you want to see this?’ I
held it out, adding as she came towards me, ‘It’s probably an old
one but you never know’.
    She took it and read it. As she went from line
to line I saw her mouth slowly open. Her face seemed to become
longer and thinner, with shock. She stared at me with big eyes,
then pushed the message into my hands and stood there, shaking, as
I read.
    In a rough scrawl I saw these words, written
by Mr Mackenzie:

Corrie, I’m in the Show Secretary’s Office. Something’s going on.
People say it’s just Army manoeuvres but I’m sending this anyway,
then heading home to tear it up so no one’ll know what an idiot
I’ve been. But Corrie, if you do get this, go bush. Take great
care. Don’t come out till you know it’s safe. Much love darling.
Dad.
    The last twenty or so words were heavily
underlined, everything from ‘go bush’ onwards.
    We looked at each other for a moment, then had
a big hug. We both cried a bit, then ran outside to show the
others.
    I think I must have run out of tears after
that day, because I haven’t cried again since.
    When we left the Mackenzies’ we moved
cautiously. For the first time we acted like people in a war, like
soldiers, like guerillas. Corrie said to us, ‘I’ve always laughed
at Dad for being so cautious. The way he carries his spirit level
everywhere. But his big motto is “Time spent in reconnaissance is
seldom wasted”. Maybe we’d better go with that for a while.’
    We had another bike, Corrie’s, so we worked
out a way of travelling that we thought was a compromise between
speed and safety. We fixed a landmark – the first one was the old
Church of Christ – and the first pair, Robyn and Lee, were to ride
to it and stop. If it was safe they’d go back and drop a tea towel
on the road, two hundred metres before the church. The next pair
would set out five minutes after Robyn and Lee and the last three
five minutes later. We agreed on total silence, and we left Kevin’s
old corgi, Flip, chained up at the Mackenzies’. Our fear was making
us think.
    For all that, the trip to Robyn’s was
uneventful. Slow, but uneventful. We found her house in the same
condition as the others, empty, smelling bad, cobwebs already. It
made me wonder how quickly houses would fall apart if people
weren’t there to look after them. They’d always seemed so solid, so
permanent. That poem Mum was always quoting, ‘Look on my works ye
mighty and despair’. That was all I could remember, but it was the
first time I started to understand the truth of it.
    It was 1.30 in the morning. We went up to the
hill behind Robyn’s house and looked at Wirrawee. Suddenly I was
very tired. The town was in darkness, no street lights even. There
must have been some power though, because there were quite strong
lights at the Showground – the floodlights they used for the
trotting track – and a couple of buildings in the centre of town
were lit. As we sat there we talked softly about our next

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